Bangladesh Adventures

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stout Family Visits 7 Compassion Projects in Northwest Bangladesh

From 17 to 22 Oct the Stout family visited 7 projects in Northwest Bangladesh. Of course, it is always an adventure to travel in Bangladesh but when you add four boys and an Aunt it becomes BIG!

17 Oct, Tuesday: Left the house by van at 7 a.m. The van included Samuel, Program Facilitator for Compassion Bangladesh; Aunt Prova, Nita’s younger sister; Nita, the four boys and I; plus the driver. No main problems going up the road with trucks, buses, rickshaws, people and animals on a single lane road for most of the time.

BD-211 Madisohor Child Sponsorship Project (CSP). This project is in a very remote area of the Noagaon District. The project has 100 children. And has the distinction of the only two story office out of any of our projects. Of course the office is a house made out of mud. The mud is cool in the summer so it was nice to talk to staff in there. In front of the office is a courtyard where the children eat lunch. Chad, CJ and I sat Indian style with the children for lunch. We had Chicken curry, lentil and rice. Nita and the other boys ate with project staff and community dignitaries at a table in the office.

BD-210 Potnitola CSP. This project is a hostel/ orphanage with 148 well behaved, happy, very talented children. They did an excellent welcoming performance of singing and dancing for my family. They sang at the top of their lungs while clapping and moving to the traditional Bengali songs. There was an Art competion in my honor so I distributed prizes to the top three finishers. Plus, they received new uniforms so I distributed them. I called all 148 children by name to come on down to get there uniform and tried to say a little about each child- everybody was laughing including my own boys every time I messed up with my Bangla. We spent the night at the orphanage.

18 Oct, Wednesday: Drove 3 hours to our next project.

BD-214 Sukanpukur CSP. This project has an excellent field near the project where the boys played badminton with the project children. The presentation was nice as all the children at this project are from a tribal background. We had Kichuri for lunch which is rice cooked with lentils and vegetables, very good- Chase ate with me this time while Nita entertained the community people with the rest of the boys. It is my policy to always eat with the children when I’m at the project and to only eat what they eat, plus wash my own dish as they do. Of course the children love this and drives the staff crazy as it is there custom to feed the big person all sorts of food and do all the work for that person and as the Country Director of Compassion Bangladesh, I’m the big person. The best part of this visit was when we went to leave one for the children who is mentally retarded wanted to ride with us. Most developmentally handicapped children in Bangladesh are not allowed to go outside of their house so it was great to see him playing with the other kids. Anyhow, all the children wanted to ride in the van but we only choose him. He was so happy, he was smiled ear to ear, waving at all his friends from the inside of the van. For that brief 2 minute ride in the van he was King of the world. It moved you!

BD-218 Abirarpara CSP. This is a new project for Compassion so the children are very little, between 3 and 5 years old. I gave a talk on Mt. 18:25 that Heaven belongs to children and that adults don’t understand this but it is a privilege for children! We spent the night at this project.

19 Oct, Thursday: Drove two hours on dirt paths (not roads) to the middle of nowhere for the next project visit.

BD-206 Sreerampara CSP. This project has 139 children, all tribal for the Shantal tribe. They are very poor and live in mud houses. CJ spent his time chasing chickens, baby goats, and pigs. Tribals like their pigs, which doesn’t go over big with Muslims. Just to show you how far out this project is: the project Manager pays Taka 200 ($3) a month for rent of his mud hut, which is actually very nice!

We spent the night in Niphamari at the Leprosy Mission Guest House which is part of the campus of the Leprosy Hospital.

20 Oct, Friday: I dedicated a small school for a partner of Compassion Bangladesh. The school was small- 12 feet by 30 feet made out of bamboo walls, tin roof and bricks for the floor. However, the poor children that attend there plus their parents are very happy to send their children to the school. The one room school was packed with children and parents, at least 100 people to hear this foreigner talk. Plus, it was HOT! Anyhow Charles, Chase and Chad where in the middle of it all doing pretty well why I talked. However, when one of the small children threw-up beside him he had to leave. Then, when a spider climbed onto Chase- he was out of there. Chad kept his ground until the end of the program! The Muslim parents asked Nita and Prova many questions about the school and the project, if this location gets a project. Nevertheless, the best question was whether Nita and Prova where both my wives!

We drove three hours to Lalmonirhat to spend the night at a partner of Compassion.

21 Oct. Saturday: Drove an hour to the project we were visiting for the day.

BD-201 Kakina CSP: This is one of our oldest projects in Bangladesh- started in September 2004. They have 197 precious children all decked out in baby blue uniforms (same color as my sister VW bug back in 1970)! The project has 93 Muslim, 38 Hindu and 66 Christian children attending the project. The performance of the children was excellent. They have a dance teacher who is very good with children and it showed! They had a large parents meeting for me- more than 120 parents showed up to listen to me and ask questions. A plus for the family at this project was we know three of the sponsor of three of the children at the project. Nick Forry (my nephew) sponsor Sarifa Begum; Carla and Jared Weaver (I worked with Carla at MEDA) sponsor Flowya Rabi Das; and Brent and Regina Beidler (I served with Brent when I was with MCC Bangladesh 1987-91) sponsor Rania Rabi Das. It was great to tell the parents about the sponsors of their children. Nick’s child, Sarifa parents are weaver so we got to see how they make shawls for the winter season in Bangladesh and of course we had to buy one for Nita and Prova. Of course this worked well since we were going to freezing Darjeeling the next week for holidays. The boys played soccer the whole time with the children about 4 hour straight of soccer, Chad was in his glory running in the dirt barefooted. The boy never wears his sandles.

After Kakina we headed back to Lalmonirhat for the night.

22 Oct. Sunday: This was a big day for me. It went from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 at night with me talking or answering questions most of the time. The project is in Lalmonirhat so we only had to walk two minutes to get there.

BD-215 Lalmonirhat CSP: The day started at 7:30 with church. I gave the morning message. Church went from 7:30 to 9 a.m. From there we went to the project for a performance by the children. After the performance we walked around the project and then at lunch with the children. This time we all sat on the ground with the children to eat. We had vegetables and goat meat and rice of course. Goat meat is my favorite meat in Bangladesh! After lunch, we visited four children houses near the project. At 3 p.m. I talked with a parent group. Then at 5 I had a meeting with the community residents about the project. This meeting went from 5 to 8:30 p.m. I started by explaining Compassion International, then Compassion Bangladesh, and continued with how the local project works on Holistic Child Development with the children. This was followed by a lot of questions- ranging from why the children didn’t get umbrella to when will the project sponsor more children to what happens after the child completes the project. It was a good day but long, and I had lost my voice by the end of the day.

It was a great visit to the projects and the family enjoyed it and learned more about what I do and why. Work with children and projects energies you!

Praises and Prayers

7,000 precious children registered
SBT Staff
300 precious children and 3 projects added BD-505,506, and 507
Safe travel for staff and families over Eid Holidays
Ratan friend’s wife healing
Sunny (IT Specialist) house move (closer to the office)
Sujala’s mother healing
BD-212 (project) resolution to a internal conflict
Annual Report completed
Kini (sponsored child) and her father safe return to BD from an Indian Hospital after two months

BD-precious children and projects
5 projects and children that were flooded in early October
Sponsor and Donors
Thailand Political Situation
BD’s Political Situation (only prayer can help this one)
Staff travel during this time of political unrest and fighting
Kini (sponsored girl) continued healing
Uttapal (sponsored boy) continued healing
Satalia Project having trouble with Muslim holy men
Paula’s eye (Sunny’s wife)
New Partners Workshop
Kevin’s travel to Kolkata for meetings
Milka’s health (SDM supervisor)
Project audits
Tuli’s mother’s health (translator)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Charles the B-Day Boy!

Charles turned the big 1-2 on 4 October. We still don’t have a teenager and that is okay by me. However, he has started to use mouth wash and we don’t know why? He doesn’t like the taste of anything so why use Listerine, he almost chokes to death every morning in our bathroom! Charles is sensitive, as many of you know so I don’t want to ask him directly.

As per Stout boys guidelines he had a sleep over for his birthday. We had 6 boys at our house for the night plus our four monkeys. They all were in rare form- mostly bouncing off the walls. Nita is crazy about sleep-over but I get a big kick out of them. Once again, there was a wide spectrum of nationalities represented. Seung Hwan from South Korean, Abba from Holland, Omar from England/Bangladesh, Micah from Denmark/Bangladesh; and Jonah and Andrew from USA.

They Started with Nita’s homemade Pizza- there now at the age they can eat all she can make, not one crumb from 6 pizzas was left. Then it was on to Fu-Wang bowling alley. The bowling alley has went down hill over the years we’ve been here. It has 10 lanes but only three are in operation now and I had to keep score- the computer doesn’t work. But that is perfect for 10 boys at a bowling alley- they can run around and not bother anybody! And these boys were crazy.

We had two teams of four playing each other. Chad was at his own lane doing something- he marches to a different drummer, actually, he marches in a different galaxy. CJ was watching everything and giving pointers to who ever would listen on how to knock the pins down. Charles team won so that was good for the B-day boy. They ended up with some sort of races across the lanes. I was losing control… I lost control.

Back at the house, we had cake and ice cream; and opened presents. Then the boys played indoor soccer and other games plus a dvd movie.

In the morning, they were all up early for French Toast- four slices plus per boys. One boy from England said it was the best waffles he had ever tasted- he only had six slices with Nocilla (chocolate cream) and Maple Syrup- Say Yes!!!

Charles said, “the best part of the party was the soccer tournament, however nobody won but Chad and Micah were winning at midnight.”

PS: I received my van back from the police with no problems and I didn’t have to pay anything. However, when I went to the yard to get the van with the Inspector the Police officer guarding the compound ask in Bangla how much were we charging this foreigner. The Inspector in Bangla said the foreigner didn’t have to pay anything because he was our guest in our country. Neither of them knew I spoke Bangla. The payment would not be on the record if I had to pay it.

To the above is a picture of Chase playing the guitar during music class at his school. I was at Grace attending an open house for parents when I took the picture.

Nobel Peace Prize for anti-poverty pioneer

Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank have been jointly awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

Papers in Bangladesh warmly welcome the award of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Dr Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, calling for a national holiday in celebration.

When I, Kevin C. Stout talk to anybody about the children of Bangladesh, I always say, “Bangladeshi Children: Touching Heaven – Changing Earth.”

I go on to tell that Bangladeshi Children by touching heaven i.e. knowing the loving savior and staying with Him, they will change the earth. What I mean by changing earth is that they will change themselves for the better, but I do not stop there. They will be transformers of their families to a better way of life, but I do not stop there. Bangladeshi Children will be change agents for their communities, but I do not stop there. They will change their nation from a basket case to a responsible nation, but I do not stop there.

Bangladeshi children will change the world for the betterment of humankind and God!!!

Dr. Muhammad Yunus is an example of what a Bangladeshi can do. I’m very excited that he and the Grameen Bank have one the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. I believe with all my heart that if you give a child HOPE, it will lead to LOVE; and if you give a child LOVE it will lead to FAITH; and if you give a child FAITH it will lead to PEACE!!! Dr. Yunus shows that it can lead to Peace- the Nobel Peace Prize but better yet, providing opportunity to millions of people in poverty.

Mr. Yunus has won the Nobel Peace Prize for creating microcredit, a system of small scale lending that reaches borrowers considered too small or risky by conventional lenders.

The Grameen Bank, Mr. Yunus founded in Bangladesh in 1976, lends tiny amounts – typically $200 or less, to borrowers, usually women, wanting to start or support a small business. It over comes the usual drawback to small-scale lending, the lack of collateral and costs of monitoring, by creating peer groups of lenders who watch each other’s borrowing and can help out if a member gets into difficulties.

Interest rates on loans charged by microfinance institutions are high compared with conventional lending, typically 15-35%, but bring loans to borrowers who previously had no access to lending at all at any price, or were being charged interest rates of 100 % or more by traditional rural moneylenders. Microcredit loans have a payback rate of more than 98%.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Update on Compassion Bangladesh

Bangladesh Compassion has 6,888 precious children in 51 projects in 19 districts with 17 Denominations throughout the country. One-third of our children are Muslims, One-third Hindu and One-Third Newly Christians.

Praise the Lord!

Never a dull moment in Bangladesh. Our family Toyota van (about worthless but it does get us around Dhaka) ran out of gas near our boys’ school. The driver from the office went to put gas into it this morning. He put 5 liters of gas in it then started to get in but the apartment building it was parked in from of wouldn’t let him move it they said he was stealing it. So he came to get me and by the time he went back they had called the police and the car was impounded! So I just took a rickshaw ride over to the police station to get it back but the right officer was not there. However, they had his cell phone number. He was at an Iftar (break the fast) party and would return to the police station at around 6:30 p.m.

So I returned to the office to do some work and will return to the police station in a little bit. Never a dull moment. I will let you know what happens!

For your information: why our van was parked in the bottom floor of where our office is somebody broke in and stole the stereo system including nice speakers from the USA. This all happen with security guards present, somehow!?! (We pay for the security guards with the rest of the tenants). They (security guards) claim it happen when the van was away from the office but I was away in Hong Kong for a week and the van didn’t move from the spot. Now, while my van is parked on a public street in a legal spot some apartment owner protects it from my own office driver. Go Figure!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ramadan in Bangladesh

Below is some information on the Muslim’s Ramadan, which we are well into in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, more food is eaten in this month of fasting then any other month of the year. For Bangladesh, with a 87% Muslim population almost all food shops, tea stalls and restaurants are closed during the fasting hours. The best part of the fast for me is when they break the fast each day at around 6 p.m. there is no traffic on the streets as they celebrate iftar!

Ramadan started on 23 September (based on lunar sighting), thus beginning the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran ‘was sent down from heaven, guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation.’ It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the Fast of Ramadan and lasts the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation.

During the Fast of Ramadan, strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day, the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning According to the Holy Quran: ‘One may eat and drink at any time during the night "until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night.’

On the evening of the 27th day of the month, Muslims celebrate the Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). It is believed that on this night Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Quran. Accordingly, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year. When the fast ends (the first day of the month of Shawwal) it is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Id-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged. Friends and family gather to pray in congregation and for large meals. In some cities fairs are held to celebrate the end of the Fast of Ramadan.

Boys back at Grace International School

The school year actually started at 8:00 a.m. 14 August, Monday. We arrived back from England at 6:30 a.m. a 12-hour flight. And being the father that I am the boys where in school by 8:30 a.m. Now that was no trouble for Charles, Chase, or Chad but our poor little CJ was starting school for the first time. He cried for three hours straight the first day. The second day he fell asleep under the table when all the other kids where playing. The third thru sixth day was hard but he kept doing better each day and now he loves school. He especially loves riding in the Van (white school bus) with his brother to school! (Picture is from the first day of school)

Grace is a Christian school with around 180 children between pre-school and year 10. It uses the English National Curriculum as prescribed by the Secretary of State for Education (England and Wales) and is an English medium school (that means the children use English.) More than 30 nations are represented in the student body.

CJ is 3 years old and started Pre-School One, which runs from 8:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. five days a week. He loves school and enjoys telling us about the color, shape, and story of the week. His teacher is Mrs. Waddell. Mrs. Waddell is from South Africa. (Picture at left is of CJ and his new “Cars” backpack from Aunt Maureen- he thinks his back pack is neat.)

Chad is 7 years old and in year 3 (that is grade 2 for you American system people). Chad and his brothers’ classes run from 8:00 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Chad’s teacher is Mrs. Snowdon the principal’s wife. Mrs. Snowdon is from the UK where she taught in Emmanuel School, Derby. Having gained a Bachelor of Education degree, she has taught in a variety of schools from pre-school to middle school and also spent a few years as a team leader in a residential children’s home.

Chase is 9 years 10 years old and in year 6 (that is grade 5). His teacher is Mr. Cooper. Mr. Cooper is from the UK. Has has 14 years previous teaching experience both in the UK and in China. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and followed this up with a Masters in Education in International Schools. He is a tall man a 6’4” and shaves his head. I think Chase is a little intimidated by him.

Charles is 11 going on 12 years old (on 4 Oct) in year 7 (that is grade 6). He is now in Middle School. Charles has many different teachers. His home class teacher is Mr. Ferdinando. Mr. Ferdinando has worked at Grace for the last five years and holds the position of Coordinator of Key Stage 3 and 4. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree before proceeding to do his Post Graduate Certificate in Education, specializing in Secondary School teaching. He is also from the UK. However, Charles also has Mrs. Portela from Canada, Mrs. Khew from Malaysia, Mr. Sairs from Ohio, USA, and Mrs. Murmu for Bengali from Bangladesh.

Dhaka is not the best place to live but Grace is a much-loved place for the boys. Dhaka has plus 15 million people with no green spaces. The boys miss the green grass of central Pennsylvania. We thank God for Grace International. Please pray for the teachers- there have been a number of sicknesses going around including Dungee fever. Dungee fever last for about two weeks and puts you flat on your back.

In addition, we are looking for teachers for next school year 07/08 so if you’re interested please e-mail me. The school takes teachers from all over the world.

A First, Visit to England (developed country)

From 9 to 13 August the Stout family visited England. This was a first for us in a big way! None of us has ever visited a developed country outside of the USA and Canada. I have been around the world many times, have worked in, and visited many countries but all of them have been in the developing world. The same goes for Nita and the boys- they have visited many countries but never the First World.

To the surprise of me- we loved it. London was great and Wells, where we visited friends in Southwest England was beautiful! We’re ready now to visit more first world countries. There is one problem with this plan it cost a lot more to visit developed countries then a third world one. London was very expensive but so full of history and I’m talking about 1,000 to 5,000 years of history. We from North America are not use to that.

We arrived Wednesday night and stayed at a guesthouse near the airport. The next morning we had breakfast at local restaurant- sausages, eggs, beans and bread- the boys all found something they likes. We then proceeded to a bus (double decker-say yes if you’re a young boy) stand that took us to a nearby underground (subway) station. This was free I’m not sure why. We bought a family pass for the day on the underground and where on our way to down town London.

On the flight over to England I had narrowed the sites we wanted to see in London to 14, don’t miss sites. I knew this was unrealistic but how could we miss important stuff. By the End of the flight and talking with Nita and the boys- we had it down to 1-Tower of London; 2-Westminster Abbey; 3-House of Parliament and Big Ben; 4-British Museum. Only four things in two days of London and we only visited one- Tower of London and spent the whole day there and then saw some of the other sites but didn’t have time to go inside.

Underground drop us off right near the Tower of London beside the River Thames. There are a lot of trees and parks in London more than New York City.

Tower of London, what should we say- we loved it! So interesting, and get this- it was built in 1078! Now that is an old Castle. I say more about the Tower of London below. From the Tower of London, we walked around and took the underground around London. We saw the Tower Bridge (see picture above); Westminster Abbey built in 1066 (we only saw the outside but was it impressive); The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (no pictures here we dropped our camera at lunch and it broke L); walked along and over the River Thames including Millennium Bridge, London Eye and all the different people, shops and sights beside the River.
On Friday morning, we packed up our Renault Keyless subcompact mini-van and started towards Wells. Wells is a three-hour drive from London on a number of highways named M-6, M-5 etc. and roads. Friends of ours’ from Bangladesh back in the 80s own a 400-year-old pub in Wells. On the way, we stopped at Stonehenge. We thought the Tower of London was old at 900 plus years, well Stonehenge is a 5,000 year old ring of enormous standing stones.

The boys plus Nita and I where impressed with the site. It is right out in a middle of a field on rolling hills. Construction of Stonehenge started around 3000 BC when the outer circular bank and ditch were erected. A thousand years later an inner circle of granite stones was added. Around 1500 BC, the huge stones that make Stonehenge instantly recognizable were dragged to the site from about 20 miles away. It’s estimated that dragging one of these 50 ton stones across the countryside to Stonehenge would require about 600 people.

We reached Wells in Somerset County around 5 p.m. Our friends the Grahams were ready for us. They have four older children that I remember well from my days with MCC. Peter, the father was the Agricultural Leader when I was a Soybean Agronomist with MCC. There four kids range in age from 13 to 22 years old so a little older than ours’.

Wells is England’s smallest city and a charmingly dignified plane with a magnificent hidden cathedral and the imposing Bishop’s Palace. Medieval buildings are scattered around town and the water from the three natural springs that give Wells its name gurgles down the High St.

The boys loved the 400-year-old free pub. They had a trampoline and Skittles (a type of one-lane wooden bowling alley with 9 pins and a smaller wooden ball so the boys had fun playing. Peter and Veryan were wonderful host and treated us royally! The countryside is so beautiful with the fields and hedgerows around each field and lining the roads!

On Saturday we visited a number of places around Wells including Wookey Hole, Ceddar Gorge and beautiful Provincial Park at another Gorge- we took an hour hike up and around the Gorge. Wookey Hole is a series of caves carved out by the River Axe. The cave contained a spectacular lake and some fascinating stalagmites- the boys thought it was excellent being underground in a cave.

On Sunday we returned to London to catch our flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Of course that was only two days after the capture of potential terrorist hitting airlines so the Airport was like a zoo with police and military everywhere. We ending up being able to fly that day but I we were allowed to take on board, between six of us, was a small clear plastic bag with our tickets and my wallet- nothing else was allowed.

All said and done we loved England and want to go back, Lord willing!

More on the Tower of London: We had a hugely entertaining tour of the castle with a Tudor-garbed Beefeater. In 1078 William the Conqueror laid the first stone of the White Tower to replace the timber-and-earth castle he’d already built there. By 1285 two walls with towers and a moat were built around it and the medieval defences have barely been altered since. A former royal residentce, treasury, mint and arsenal, it became most famous as a prison when Henry VIII moved to Whitehall Palace in 1529 and started dishing out his preferred brand of punishment. The boys thought his armor was very interesting- you will have to ask them about it.

The most striking building was the huge White Tower, in the centre of the courtyard, with its solid Romanesque architecture and four turrets. On the 2nd floor is the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist, dating from 1080 and therefore the oldest church in London. On the small green in front of the church stood the scaffold, set up during Henry VIII’s reign, where seven people were beheaded, among them Anne Boleyn and her cousin Catherine Howard (his second and fifth wives). Facing the White Tower to the north is the Waterloo Barracks, which now contains the Crown Jewels, we walked by all of the crown jewels- there is a lot of them.

On the another side of the White Tower is the Bloody Tower, where the 12 year old Edward V and his little brother were held ‘for their own safety’ and later murdered by their uncle the future king Richard III. The boys found all of this interesting- I found it appalling that Kings and Queens for 1,000 years have been involved in murdered, cheating, wars, political fighting, and killing little kids all to stay in Power. Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts! (Our own King Charles II is pictured at left- hopefully, he will not follow the English Royalty.)